Each book now, Walter Abish proves himself a more and more intriguing writer. Armed with an urbane, almost telescopic farsightedness, he's been able to invest the experimental with a surface very much his own. In the seven stories here, the concern is with how the idea of perfection advertises itself, and in each instance Abish makes a kind of store-window: displaying perfection and, in the process, mirroring the subsurface imperfections. Best are the pieces in which the formality of language is made so manifest that, subtly and suavely, the stories seem to granulate. ""Ardor/Awe/Anxiety"" orders its text as though it's been written for foreigners-most of the words are numbered and keyed--while telling a hard-shelled story of decadent rootlessness as sharply attentive as anything of Joan Didion's. ""In So Many Words"" likewise employs the means of the story, its words--here first provided in strictly alphabetical order, then arranged as recognizable paragraphs--to pull the rug out from beneath its vigorously unsentimental stare at the sexual life of a successful New York businesswoman. Abish's narrative gifts are icy but tremendously sure; his devices may occasionally clutter his purpose but never do they subvert it.